BBC News Online profiles the five authors who joined winner DBC Pierre on the 2003 Booker Prize shortlist.
Monica Ali was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1967 - the daughter of an English mother and Bangladeshi father.
Monica Ali was favourite to win with one bookmaker
She moved to Bolton, Greater Manchester, with her family aged four and her literary curiosity was piqued at the age of 10 when her mother took her to the library.
But instead of taking her to the children's section, her mother picked The Bell by Iris Murdoch - with its homosexual affair and religious tensions. "I was initiated," Ali recalled.
She went on to study politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University before moving to London, marrying a management consultant and having two children.
She began writing Brick Lane - about life in London's East End - after joining online short story groups during disrupted night-times spent feeding her youngest daughter.
And it had the reception that most budding writers dream of - a £200,000 advance from a British publisher on the strength of six chapters.
Before it was published, she hit the headlines when she was included on Granta's list of 20 best new young novelists - and Brick Lane has been selling well since it was published in June.
Margaret Atwood won the prize in 2000 for The Blind Assassin and has been nominated a further three times, not including this year.
Margaret Atwood is a previous Booker winner
Born in 1939 in Ottawa, Canada, she came to prominence in the 1960s and her work includes more than 30 books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.
Her novels include her 1985 success The Handmaid's Tale plus Cat's Eye, The Robber Bride and Alias Grace.
If her novels have a thread, it is her capacity to describe pain, its causes and consequences - but she has said it is not a reflection of her personal suffering.
"All writing... is motivated, deep down, by a fear of and a fascination with mortality," she has said.
Her work has been translated into 33 languages and she lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.
Damon Galgut was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1963, and studied drama at the University of Cape Town.
Damon Galgut was 17 when he wrote his first novel
He wrote his first novel, A Sinless Season, at the age of 17 - but that was followed by a break of several years.
But when he resumed, he wrote Small Circle of Beings and The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs - for which the Financial Times said he wrote "like an angel" when it was published in 1991.
Then came The Quarry, a thrilling chase across South Africa, which was made into a film by a Belgian production company.
He has also written plays and has taught drama at the University of Cape Town.
The Good Doctor, set in a struggling rural hospital in South Africa, is his fourth novel and has seen him compared to Graham Greene.
It was described by one critic as "sensory and reflective in equal and impressive measure".
Zoe Heller was born in London in 1965 and was educated at Oxford University and Columbia University in New York.
Zoe Heller is a British newspaper columnist
She established herself as a journalist, and her work as a feature writer, critic and columnist has appeared in the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Vogue and Vanity Fair among others.
In 1998, she wrote an article arguing that the "chick lit" fad had got out of hand - and, true to her word, her debut novel in 1999 was about a 50-year-old man recovering from a heart attack.
Titled Everything You Know, it was met with lukewarm praise by critics.
She was named columnist of the year for 2002 and her second novel, Notes on a Scandal, followed this June.
It got a better reception than her debut, and was blackly funny, witty and poignant, according to one critic.
The mother of a young daughter, Heller now lives in New York.
Clare Morrall was born in Exeter in 1952 and she left Devon in her late teens to study music in Birmingham, where she has worked as a music teacher since.
Clare Morrall is ranked as 10-1 outsider with bookmaker Ladbrokes
Her shortlisted novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, was not released until she was 50.
She has written all her life but her first four books were turned down by publishers.
"I suppose it is a strike for all those of us who have unpublished books under our beds and wonder, is it worth going on?" she told a newspaper.
The story reflects her interests in the dynamics of motherless family life, and in synaesthesia - a condition in which emotions can be seen as colours.
She has said she will not give up her teaching job, even if she wins the Booker, and did not even have an agent until the shortlist was announced.